To all those (Pakistani) critics of BCB's decision to apply the Bangladesh pataka (flag) law from 25 March (the eve of the nation's independence from Pakistan), the implementation of the regulation prohibits ONLY Bangladesh citizens from carrying foreign flags (not only Pakistani) at cricket matches in the country. Persons of all other nationalities are welcome to carry and wave their 'respective' national flags. 'Respective' because no one is expecting an Indian fan of gritty Umar Akmal to paint her face with a Pakistani flag, nor any Pakistani admirer of flamboyant Vihrat Kohli to wave the Indian colours.
Sadly for this country born 1971, Pakistanis and Indians have for long witnessed their national flags fluttering in the hands of some deranged Bangladeshis (?), and some, including former world-class player Javed Miandad, are 'surprised' at the discontinuation of the phenomenon because he says, “Cricket is a game which harbours sportsman spirit and this decision violates that spirit.” Another former captain, Mohammad Yousuf, opined the BCB decision 'defied logic' because “it is against the spirit of the game, as you cannot stop anyone from supporting his favourite team,” he said. (Dawn, Karachi quoting AFP 26 Mar 2014)
I cannot teach the two cricket greats the game, but I can give them some lessons on unbiased sportsmanship. In order to 'harbour sportsman spirit' teams and countries, even those who are at war, play against each other as 'friends', but they remain loyal to their respective national identities. Example 1: Pakistani speedster, World Cup winner, and now commentator Wasim Akram is always full of praise for Sachin Tendulkar, but he does not say that with an Indian flag painted on his cheek. I have checked both. Example 2: World Cup hero and now TV pundit Ravi Shastri always has flowery appreciation for Shahid Afridi, but you will never see him waving a Pakistan flag from the box or on the pitch. It would be so demeaning for both of them.
Several Pakistani readers of Dawn (Karachi) considers Dhaka's foreign flag ban 'against personal freedom', which is a rather heavy opinion, because any 'freedom' which can hurt the sentiment of another person is a breach of civil conduct, and not permissible in any country.
A flag is above all a political property and that is why the BCB ban is good, proven repeatedly by Pakistanis who have taken the issue politically. Says one lady, 'Haseena Wajid, she did this all because she is (an) anti-Pakistan woman...' She goes on, 'This Hasina regime is toxic when it comes to Pakistan and her hatred against our country is too obvious to ignore. .. It is evident that Bangladeshi people have still got warm feeling towards Pakistan and its people which were quite evident in recent Asia cup, this fact boomeranged against her despite her all out efforts to demonize Pakistan and now she can't digest his ground reality.' Wrote another, 'Waving Pakistani (flag) by anyone is a challenge to her (Hasina) government'. Now are these politicians talking or sports fans?
Some readers got the BCB point of view straight away. '…there are other political issues Bangladesh is facing that are bigger than the sports, let them handle it their way. They didn't stop Pakistanis to root for their own country, so what's the problem?' wrote one. '…flags of other nations haven't been banned. So Indians, Pakistanis and others in Bangladeshi stadiums can still wave their (own) flags', explained a reader in the comments box.
One Dawn reader asked, 'Do Pakistanis wave (the) Bangladeshi flag? For that matter do Indians? It's an issue in their country and it is not just a sporting issue. I know sport is supposed to be kept separate from politics, but reality is never that simple, especially in this divided subcontinent.'
There was also support for the BCB stand from some readers.
'Bangladesh as a nation still has conflict over Islamic identity and Bengali identity. Many Bangladeshis when they support Pakistan is not just supporting for sporting reasons but there are other deeper reasons. There is a small section of the population who by means of supporting Pakistan tries to show their anti-nationalistic feelings. And the Bangladeshi government has the right to take some measures against that', was one comment.
'I doubt Bangladeshi people would wave Pakistani flags due to the history.... and anyways (a) handful of people can't be the voice of the entire population.... if it is a proactive measure that (the) Bangladesh authorities feel is sensitive enough then let them do it… haven't stopped any non-Bangladeshi from supporting their own teams, so what's the fuss?', said another.
According to another reader, 'Bangladesh has only banned carrying the flags of different nations on the gallery by its people because this is the national flag rules. There is no objection to foreigners carrying their own flags to the ground or the gallery.'
The sporting issue got more political towards the end. 'Waving non-Bangladeshi flags is done by non-Bengali youths. They want to go to their country and by waving flags during international tournaments probably they try to catch world attention. Pakistan should take back the stranded Bihari-Pakistanis in Bangladesh. This is not just a cricket matter –it is a serious humanitarian issue neglected by Pakistan for 43 years', clarified one.
One person reacted to an earlier comment, “You are absolutely wrong when you say that 'Some Bangladeshis still have warm feelings towards Pakistan'. The fact is almost all Bangla youths strongly hate Pakistan, which is a legacy of pre-1971 history. Only those youths, the stranded Pakistanis (Biharis, which are equivalent to Muhazirs), who rooted for Pakistan in 1971 and continued to remain loyal to Pakistan and are still crying to be repatriated to Pakistan...they are the ones who wave Pakistani flags.”
The Pakistanis reacting to the ban seem to forget that there is no prohibition on supporting any individual cricketer, clap for him, cheer for her. That is sportsman spirit. But how can a citizen of one country root for the national team of another country while sitting in a stadium in his own country, or anywhere else in the world, waving the flag of the other country? Even in Pakistan and India such an act would be considered seditious?
The issue was raised in this Chintito column under 'Of flags, fans and fanaticism', on 20 April 1996, and after 18 long years of debauched behaviour by a section of ill-motivated people dressed as cricket fans, BCB has lit yet another candle to radiate further our freedom and purpose.